SEWARD, Neb. – For the seventh-straight season, the Concordia women’s basketball team has advanced beyond its opening contest of the GPAC tournament. On Wednesday night the third-ranked Bulldogs did just enough to squeak by visiting and seventh-seeded Mount Marty, 71-66, in one of four quarterfinal matchups.
Ninth-year head coach Drew Olson’s second-seeded squad overcome its offensive struggles for a wire-to-wire win over the seventh-seeded Lancers (19-12), who entered the game with a three-game winning streak. Concordia improved to 29-2 overall and 18-11 all-time in GPAC postseason play.
“Mount Marty played great,” Olson said. “They’re a tough team to play. They have a lot of great shooters that extend a defense. Defensively they did a nice job not letting us get into the lane, but part of that was on us not attacking like we should.
“In the end we found the ways to make the plays to win. That’s been our team all year.”
The Bulldogs found themselves down 51-43 with 10:54 remaining when Alex Kneeland knocked down one of Mount Marty’s 10 3-point field goals on the evening. After a Bailey Morris turnover on the ensuing possession, Olson called a timeout to settle down his team.
Concordia responded with the next six points to set up a nailbiting finish.
“We sat down and said we have plenty of time,” senior Tracy Peitz said. “Get the ball, get stops and make some plays. I think that timeout was a big game changer.”
Peitz and the Bulldogs finally grabbed the lead for good (58-55) when Morris splashed in a trey off the kick out from Peitz at the 4:14 mark. Though Morris went 6-for-17 from the field, she made a key jumper from the elbow after Mount Marty cut the lead to two late. She also made a nifty no-look pass on the break to Kelsey Hizer for a layup in the final minute.
Olson could breathe easier after Shelby Quinn nailed a pair of free throws that provided a 70-64 margin with under 20 seconds remaining.
On a night when Concordia shot 40.7 percent from the field and uncharacteristically low plus-one turnover margin, Peitz’s aggressive approach proved crucial. The native of Hartington, Neb., equaled Morris’ team high of 17 points while recording six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“Tracy was dominant,” Olson said. “She had a great matchup and we were able to give her the ball in the post. She made really good decisions as far as when to attack and when to pass like when she kicked it out to Becky (Mueller) for a three. Tracy was really the key to the game.”
The Lancers leaned upon standout Raquel Sutera in their bid for the upset. Sutera dropped in three treys as part of a 14-point, 15-rebound performance. The conference leader in made 3-point field goals per game, Mount Marty gave Concordia fits by draining 10 of 23 shots (.423) from beyond the arc on Wednesday.
Morris posted her second career double-double by hauling in a career best 11 rebounds. She added four assists and two steals. Other double-figure scorers for Concordia were Mary Janovich (12) and Kelsey Hizer (11). Jericca Pearson came off the bench to nab seven rebounds and three steals.
Kneeland and April Winne added 13 points apiece for Mount Marty. The Lancers got hot from 3-point range, but went only 11-for-36 (.306) from inside the arc.
Concordia now aims to reach the GPAC title game after falling in the semifinals in each of the past two seasons. The Bulldogs draw No. 12 Hastings (22-7), a 70-53 winner over Doane on Wednesday, in Saturday’s semifinal. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. from Walz Arena, where Concordia is 56-7 over the past four seasons.
“It’s really exciting (to get to play at Walz again),” Peitz said. “I love the student section and our parents are really supportive. It’s exciting to play Hastings again. It’s always a good matchup between us and them.”